Netflix Inc. v. DivX LLC
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Say Goodbye: Argument Not Presented in IPR Petition Is Waived

In a split decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Patent Trial & Appeal Board patentability determination, finding that the challenger’s appeal arguments were not raised in its inter partes review (IPR) petitions and were therefore waived. Netflix, Inc. v. DivX, LLC, Case Nos. 22-1203; -1204 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 25, 2023) (Linn, Chen, JJ.) (Dyk, J., dissenting).

DivX owns two patents directed to media streaming technologies. In media streaming, content (such as a movie) is typically stored as separate “streams” suitable for different device capabilities. A playback device must be able to select the appropriate media file from the available streams. To accomplish this selection, the challenged patents discuss a method for automatically generating top-level index files that describe the location and content of container files having streams of media. In particular, an independent claim in each of the patents recites a method comprising “receiving” a request for content, “retrieving” a list of assets associated with the content, “filtering” the list of assets using device capability, “generating . . . a top level index file describing each asset in the filtered list of assets” and “sending the top level index file” to the playback device.

Netflix challenged the two patents in two separate IPR proceedings based on two combinations of prior art references: Pyle and Marusi, and Lewis and Marusi. The Board issued lengthy final written decisions for both petitions, closely analyzing the arguments and evidence presented by Netflix and DivX. The Board determined that Netflix failed to meet its burden of showing that the challenged claims were unpatentable. Netflix appealed.

At the outset, the Federal Circuit noted that “Netflix’s appeal does not challenge any of the Board’s substantive analysis.” It instead makes a purely procedural argument, accusing the Board of “falling down on the job by failing to address several arguments purportedly raised in Netflix’s petitions.” One such argument that the Court identified related to the “filtering” claim element. The Court, the Board and Netflix all agreed that Netflix had advanced an argument that Pyle teaches the filtering element based on Pyle’s selection of a preexisting manifest. Netflix, however, argued on appeal that it also had advanced an argument that Pyle teaches the filtering element based on Pyle’s creation of a new manifest. The Board found that this argument was not presented in Netflix’s petition, and the Federal Circuit agreed. At the Federal Circuit, Netflix identified various block quotes in its petition that purported to support the argument. However, the Court found that “nothing in the quoted language itself signals to a reader that an optimized new manifest equates to ‘filtering the list of assets.’” Furthermore, “the petition made it quite clear Netflix was focused on Pyle’s pre-existing manifest . . . Netflix thus showed it knew how to put forward a clear mapping of Pyle to the filtering limitation, but never connected Pyle’s new manifest to that limitation.”

Judge Dyk dissented. In his opinion, Netflix had not failed to advance the “new manifest” [...]

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Hit Rewind: Analogous Art and Field of Endeavor

Addressing the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s application of the field of endeavor and reasonably pertinent tests for determining analogous art, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the Board should not have required a petitioner to precisely articulate the relevant field of endeavor for the patent and prior art using the magic words, “field of endeavor.” However, the Court agreed with the Board that the prior art was not reasonably pertinent because it concerned a different problem than the challenge addressed by the patent. Netflix, Inc. v. DivX, LLC, Case No. 22-1138 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 11, 2023) (Stoll, Hughes, and Stark, JJ.)

Netflix filed an inter partes review (IPR) challenging DivX’s patent directed toward a feature called “trick play functionality,” which refers to the ability to fast forward, rewind and skip frames in a multimedia file. The patent’s background explains that the invention generally relates to the “encoding, transmission and decoding of multimedia files.” Notably, the claimed invention implements a multimedia file based on the Audio Video Interleave (AVI) structure with an additional storage structure called an “index chunk.”

In its petition, Netflix asserted that the challenged claims were obvious over two prior art references, Zetts in view of Kaku. Kaku disclosed the use of an AVI file with an index chunk to show image data and/or play sound data in a digital camera. Kaku explained that the invention’s primary object is to reproduce a motion image in a device with minimal memory but clarified that the invention is “applicable to every electronic appliance to reproduce motion images.” Netflix asserted that Zetts disclosed a system for facilitating trick play while Kaku disclosed using an AVI file format with an index chunk to store video/audio data.

In its patent owner response, DivX argued that Kaku was non-analogous art because the challenged patent relates to facilitating trick play in streamed multimedia content, whereas Kaku utilizes M-JPEG files in limited-memory cameras. DivX similarly argued that Kaku was not reasonably pertinent to the problem of “facilitating trick play functionality in streaming services.” Netflix countered that Kaku must be considered for its AVI teachings and/or the “encoding and decoding of multimedia files,” both of which are “applicable to every electronic appliance to reproduce motion images” and render Kaku reasonably pertinent. The Board rejected Netflix’s obviousness argument, holding that it failed to identify the field of endeavor for the DivX patent or Kaku, as well as the problem to be addressed by the DivX patent. Netflix appealed.

The Federal Circuit first considered the Board’s conclusion that Netflix failed to identify an overlapping field of endeavor for Kaku and the DivX patent. The Court explained that the field of endeavor is determined by reference to explanations of the invention’s subject matter in the specification and is not limited to the specific point of novelty or the particular focus within a field. Rather, a field of endeavor may be broadly defined because it relies on the specification’s complete disclosure. Applying this principle, the [...]

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